HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The University of Central Arkansas Bears head into the final seven games of their regular-season schedule needing to string together some victories in order to reach the Southland Conference Tournament in March.
UCA (3-14, 2-7 SLC), plagued by injuries throughout the conference season, has lost seven consecutive games heading into Saturday’s matchup with Sam Houston State at 5 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum.
The Bearkats (15-6, 9-1 SLC) are trending the opposite direction, tied with Abilene Christian for first place in the SLC standings, a half-game ahead of Stephen F. Austin (8-1) and a full game in front of fourth-place Nicholls (8-2).
The Bears lost to the Bearkats 91-80 back on Jan. 9 at the Farris Center to start their slide.
UCA out-shot Sam Houston overall (48.2 to 47.9 percent) and won the rebound battle (44-32), but the Bearkats made 13 3-pointers to UCA’s three and scored 25 points off 17 UCA turnovers.
UCA had four players in double figures, led by senior guard Rylan Bergersen with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Senior Jared Chatham followed with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomores Khaleem Bennett and Jaxson Baker added 16 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bears are coming off an open date on Wednesday due to COVID-19 issues with the New Orleans program but lost their last game to McNeese 80-70 last Saturday at the Farris Center.
Playing without five players due to injury and tracing – including three starters – the Bears got 20 points from junior Eddy Kayouloud and 19 more from Bergersen and connected 11 times from 3-point range.
However, the Cowboys topped that with 14 threes and also added 36 points off the bench to even the season series with the Bears.
The Bearkats had an eight-game winning streak broken by old rival SFA on Jan. 31, but have come back to win two straight Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana.
Sam Houston has two players averaging double figures in scoring, with Zach Nutall at 18.9 points per game (second in the SLC) and Demarkus Lampley at 15.4, with a team-high 60 3-pointers.
Sam Houston is second in the league in scoring (80.4 points per game) and fourth in points allowed (71.0). The Bearkats are also third in 3-point percentage (36.7) and first in 3-pointers made (9.2 per game).
The game will be carried live on The Bear 91.3 with Justin Acri and Steve Owens, and also on ESPN+.